For many of us, walking daily along the same tracks, pavements and landscape may have started to grate a little - and we surely all dream of day when we can travel further afield and explore new routes. The slow but gloriously perceptible return of spring is helping to put a revived ‘pep’ in our step as we spot tiny signs of the seasonal shift in hedgerows and trees - but today we concentrated upon the oft-overlooked beauty of evergreens.
“The are the best smelling trees of all - like mint maybe, or something zingy and spicy.” (Age 7)
Ever up for a (competitive) challenge, the children ran ahead with enthusiasm to claim first sight of each evergreen they spotted - and we took a leaf or small branch of needles from each, to compare and scrutinise further once we returned home. Box, holly, Scots pine, yew - natural species to the UK - plus cedar, laurel, leylandii and cypress, which originated elsewhere in the world but now flourish here.
“Spiky. Shiny. Tickley.” (Age 4)
We guessed why evergreens keep hold of their needle-like leaves, learning that leaf longevity makes evergreens able to produce enough energy to grow during shorter and cooler seasons as well as in poor soil conditions and low nutrient levels - making them perfectly adapted for harsh conditions such as high altitude and cold climates.
The tough needles are also able to lower the freezing levels of water in their cells to prevent freezing - and those thin leaves and long, flexible branches are well designed to avoid breakage by avoiding heavy loads of snow. Their glossy leaves/needles are also perfectly adapted to conserve water - and so can survive even in period of draught.
The boys have drawn their chosen evergreen tree branch in their nature journals, whilst their sister made leaf rubbings and (inevitably) snipped the laurel leaves with her ubiquitous scissors. The new mission invigorated our familiar walk and we are all rather more enamoured with those brave, resilient, evergreen trees than we were before.
“I’m going to like our Christmas tree even more now that I know how clever it is.” (Age 9)